|Dr. Patrick Mahaney and his dog Cardiff. |
Photo courtesy of P. Mahaney
Patrick Mahaney is an integrative veterinarian from Los Angeles, CA. Patrick combines western and traditional Chinese veterinary medicine in his practice, which offers a holistic overhaul to a pet's current state of wellness or illness. Patrick started his own business, California Pet Acupuncture & Wellness (CPAW, Inc.), in 2008 to provide house call based veterinary services. To create a "home base" for himself, Patrick implemented his business into the Veterinary Cancer Group (VCG) in 2011.
Besides his veterinary work, Patrick is obsessed with writing and enjoys seeing the evolution of his multi-media based career as a logical offshoot of his clinical practice. To satisfy creative urges, he writes a pet health column (Patrick's Blog) and connects with animal aficionados worldwide through petMD’s The Daily Vet, Perez Hilton's TeddyHilton.com, Fido Friendly, i Love Dogs, Veterinary Practice News, Animal Wellness, and My Buddy Butch Radio. Recently, he's lent his holistic veterinary perspective to MSNBC Sunday with Alex Witt and is currently filming Season 3 of Jackson Galaxy’s My Cat From Hell on Animal Planet. The public’s obsession with "celebreality" motivated him to create Celebrity Pet News, which puts a veterinary spin on celebrities and their pets.
Dr. Mahaney is also writing his first book, The Uncomfortable Vet, which will be available in 2012 through Havenhurst Books.
In the spirit of Dr. Mahaney's multi-media approach, we have recorded our interview in written, audio, and video formats, and they are all accessible here! Click play below to listen to the interview on our SoundCloud. The audio is divided into an introductory segment (0:00-3:28), a segment focusing on holistic medicine (starting 3:29), a segment focusing on LGBTQ issues (starting 18:45), and a segment focusing on the use of media, celebrities, and other fun miscellaneous questions (starting 28:58).
For those who prefer a more visual experience, here is the interview in six parts. Scroll down below for the transcript!
Part 1: Introductions
Part 2: Holistic Medicine (Part 1)
Part 3: Holistic Medicine (Part 2)
Part 4: The LGBT Community and Veterinary Medicine
Part 5: The Use of Multimedia in the Veterinary Profession
Part 6: The Fun Questions!
SONIA FANG: Hi, my name is Sonia Fang, and I’m here on behalf of Broad Spectrum Veterinary Student association to interview Dr. Patrick Mahaney. For those who don’t know, Broad Spectrum is a veterinary student group founded in 2011 to provide support and community to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, questioning, and allied pre-veterinary and veterinary students across North America. My co-interviewer is Ian DeStefano, a veterinary student from the class of 2014 and the current president of Lambda and Friends, Western University’s LGBT organization responsible for bringing Dr. Mahaney to campus today. Lambda hosted the first Spectrum LGBT Health Conference at Western and brought in both veterinary and human medical professionals to speak on topics influencing the LGBTQ community. Dr. Mahaney gave a wonderful talk today, and we are very glad to have him. Thank you so much for being here.
PATRICK MAHANEY: Thank you for having me.
|Dr. Mahaney giving a lecture at Western University's First Annual Spectrum LGBT Health Conference|
FANG: So can you please introduce yourself? Where you grew up? Where you went to school?
MAHANEY: Sure. I’m Dr. Patrick Mahaney. I grew up mostly in New Jersey, so I consider myself to be an East Coaster until I made the appropriate move west. I currently live in West Hollywood, California. I went to undergrad at University of Delaware where I have a Bachelors in science in Animal Science, and I went to the University of Pennsylvania for veterinary school, graduated in 1999. Then I moved on to do my small animal rotating internship at Friendship Hospital for Animals in Washington DC. Then after moving to the west coast, I got my veterinary acupuncture certificate from the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society, also known as IVAS.
FANG: Great. Thank you. So can you describe a little bit of how your experiences were at the University of Delaware, and UPenn, and all those experiences?
MAHANEY: So both my undergrad and graduate school experiences were great. As an undergrad student I was not yet out, but I was trying to figure things out, and so certainly I kind of led a—I focused on my studies a lot. Certainly that’s what I had to do to be able to get into school. Then starting to try to figure things out a little bit, I did develop some friendships with other LGBT students who were out. At the time, I think the environment just felt a little bit too scary for me to kind of feel comfortable coming out. I also didn’t have any good role models that I felt comfortable kind of allying myself with. So there just had to—a couple things had to change. And when I graduated, I then went to Philadelphia. I wanted to go to veterinary school in a city because cities are certainly where most LGBT people tend to go to just to establish their lives. And so being in Philadelphia really provided me the appropriate venue to start exploring the LGBT scene. There was a great student group that really helped to support LGBT veterinary students and even a particular advisor that really took a lot of us under his wing and really helped us out quite a bit. So certainly as I was a second-year vet student, that’s when I decided to come out. It really was a pretty seamless transition, both in terms of how things went in school and personally with my family as well.
FANG: That’s wonderful to hear.
|Books Dr. Mahaney recommends|
Photo: S. Fang
IAN DESTEFANO: So knowing that you practice integrative medicine, we went ahead and reached out to our fellow students, our peers, our faculty, especially those who are interested in the field and just got a feel for what they were curious about if they had the chance to ask you. So first off, tell us about your job. Did you always know you wanted to do holistic medicine, or how did you really discover your passion for holistic medicine?
MAHANEY: Leading up to today, I feel like my veterinary clinical practice career has always been in a bit of an evolution. Just going through school I really was attracted to radiology. I planned on becoming a radiologist. During my internship I applied for radiology residencies but was not accepted into them. So I needed to figure out another path. The path was potentially going to be to reapply for radiology residencies, but I started questioning was that really what I wanted to do. Or could I be happy doing general practice, emergency practice, or something else? And that’s when I really was very much involved in yoga, yoga practice, yoga teaching.
I started learning things about my body and exploring different ways of trying to manage certain chronic conditions that I have related to pain, and that created an exposure to acupuncture, chiropractic physical therapy, and all those things that I use currently to try to keep myself healthy. And then I figured I can just start applying this to my patients. And I could just label myself as somebody who does that and not do the training, but I felt it was appropriate that I get this certification and things like that. So I went through my acupuncture training which taught me about Chinese medicine, and Chinese medicine food energy, and it really lets you have a different perspective to what you know from your western veterinary practice, like how to manage a western disease from a Chinese medicine perspective. And from there, I started recognizing the things that I understood the best, like arthritis, and cancer, and diseases like that. And there’s a lot to those diseases that I, of course, don’t understand, too, but I try to best apply my knowledge to those things in my practice.
And so, my current clinical practice is a house-call based practice primarily because that’s where acupuncture works best: when pets are in the comfort of their own home; they’re not stressed out by being in a veterinary facility. They don’t have to travel to get there. They’re not going to be exposed to illnesses or trauma in that process. So that’s why I like doing that on a house-call basis. I love working with my clients. I have very, very good clients that have utilized me appropriately for all the things that I can do for them. And certainly, I try to cater to a clientele that’s higher-end clientele. I’ll help anybody, but certainly there has to be some kind of exchange. And so it’s nice being in Los Angeles to have clients that can afford those types of high end, almost concierge-style veterinary practice that I offer. And then within the Veterinary Cancer Group, I try to offer a holistic complement to traditional oncology from a perspective of medical oncology or radiation, because as these patients are really sick and are maybe even getting sicker because of their treatments, they really need to be supported in terms of food and nutraceuticals. So I really focus on that primarily there, and it’s been a great, great combination from a clinical practice perspective for me. And also it gives me some control over my schedule. I make my own schedule. I decide what I want to do and what I don’t want to do. I’m not obligated to see every single person that calls me, because sometimes when you work in a veterinary practice, you see whoever comes in the door, pretty much. If you don’t, there’s often retribution, either from a perspective of PR for the practice, or for yourself, or financially. Working for yourself you make all your own rules, and you take on what you feel is appropriate. I don’t take on things that I don’t think I can really help with, for the most part, but I’ll still talk to somebody and try to help them and get them to the place where they can get help beyond what I can provide.
DESTEFANO: Awesome. So, speaking about your clients and working with them on a holistic medicine basis: it seems like they really come to you for your specific set of skills. So how do you really educate your clients about holistic medicine? How do you describe it or define it to them?
MAHANEY: I always consider holistic medicine, if it’s veterinary or human: it’s not just tree-hugging, and drinking tea made out of twigs, or wearing Birkenstocks and patchouli, and things like that. It’s really-- Holism is just really looking at the entire organism so when you have a pet that comes in that has an ear infection, besides just trying to manage the infection through cleaning and medication, why is it happening in the first place? Is there underlying inflammation of the skin because of environmental allergies, which could be seasonal or non-seasonal? Is there a food component? Is there an underlying medical condition that’s making them more susceptible to immune system compromise that leads to allergies or infections in the first place? It’s really looking at the entire animal and trying to find out everything that’s wrong with them and really manage those at once. So often when I see a pet, maybe they have some pain because of arthritis, but they also have very advanced periodontal disease, and that needs to be managed, too, because of the mouth bacteria getting into the blood and adversely affecting the immune system. Or, they have arthritis and they need pain management, but they’re ten pounds overweight, and they’re a dog. And they’re middle age. Maybe they’re hypothyroid. We have to try to figure out the issue to get that managed. So we really need to take the time and be willing to do the research and really educate clients as to it’s extremely important that you invest time and often money into making sure your pet is as healthy as possible throughout their life instead of waiting until the problem is so bad that the pet obviously seems like they’re suffering. You don’t want to wait until periodontal disease is so bad that your pet’s breath knocks you out. You don’t want to wait until they’re so fat that they can’t get up and down the stairs or they rupture a cruciate ligament just trying to run or play. So it’s really important that throughout all life’s stages you focus on maintaining your pet as healthy as possible.
DESTEFANO: Ok. So in terms of integrating holistic medicine with traditional western medicine, could you talk about how you really meld those two together, and is there ever a conflict between one modality that works better? Or how do you go about taking the two schools of thought and really integrating that into great quality care for each patient?
MAHANEY: That’s a really good question because when I was going through each school either the traditional western training where I wasn’t aware of what was available from a non-traditional perspective or going through the Chinese medicine training, I was thinking: am I just going to be doing one or the other? But I really think every case that I treat gets that integration of western and Chinese medicine. Even from a physical exam perspective, I’m still: looking in the eyes, and the ears; the nose, and the throat; listening to heart and lungs; palpating abdomens; doing rectal exams; taking all joints through range of motion. But then in Chinese medicine, you’re looking closely at tongue, and you’re feeling pulses, and giving very specific evaluations of each of them, which helps to create a Chinese medicine diagnosis. And the main practice that I do is trying to do multi-modal pain management, which is reducing reliance on medications that have side effects. For example, our non-steroidal anti-inflammatories for arthritis work but we don’t want to rely solely on them; we want to make our pets need less of them by getting them to lose weight, by improving the range of motion, the comfort of their joints with acupuncture, physical therapy. We want to figure out what’s going on underlying that can be contributing to the condition in the first place. So every patient that I see gets that integration. And actually the application of it has been pretty seamless, and I know since so many of my pets—patients, that is—benefit from, say, nutraceutical enhancement to try to make them need less pain medication: healthy, human-grade foods to try to reduce the amount of problems that they’re having as a result of eating their pet-grade foods. Trying to think about: should we vaccinate a pet if we get that card in the mail? How about doing a blood test to see if the pet even needs it in the first place? So looking at managing illnesses from those perspectives has been great, and using the two of them together hasn’t been as much of a challenge as I thought it would be.
DESTEFANO: Awesome. And so, could you talk about the types of conditions and diseases that you really think holistic medicine benefits the most?
MAHANEY: In my experience almost any condition can be looked at from the perspective of Chinese medicine and western together. But certainly the things I find I gravitate most towards, in terms of managing, are managing arthritic pain—or any kind of pain, really. It could be spinal pain, pain from nerve root entrapment where your nerves come off of your spine, once arthritis progresses and a joint is then remodeled, that’s called degenerative joint disease, trying to deal with that. And then with animals that have cancer, certainly, helping them to deal with the pain of their cancer—pain is very often seen with almost any cancer. Helping them to deal with side effects of their treatment from their chemotherapy or from their radiation. Also focusing on the fact that most patients that have cancer are older pets, and so if we suddenly stop forgetting about trying to manage their joint discomfort from their arthritis, then they’re going to not feel so well, and then we start questioning: are they not feeling well because of their cancer? Are they not feeling well cause they’re in pain from their geriatric conditions? So really kind of a pain management practice is primarily what I do, and the most common application is arthritic pain or cancer pain.
DESTEFANO: Do you have any thoughts on the different schools of eastern medicine, holistic medicine? For example, the Chi Institute being more geared towards Eastern medicine, whereas CSU’s program being based in science, you know, the best option for someone as a practitioner or so on?
MAHANEY: That’s a good question too cause when you’re considering undertaking one of these programs to educate yourself, it’s a lot of time--it’s expensive. Besides just the fees of going to the school, you have your travel, you have your lodging. So it’s a big undertaking. I think Chi Institute is great, actually, some of my professors at my IVAS program, the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society, were from the Chi Institute like Dr. Xie who has his own line of herbal products, TCVM Herbal, that I use very frequently. The CSU school I don’t know as much about, but I think I gravitated towards the IVAS cause it seemed like a nice blend—an appropriate blend for me—of science, which you can prove, like neurology and things like that, and then Chinese medicine, which is a little bit harder to prove, but still has a good foundation considering it’s been used for thousands of years. I mean, Chinese medicine for animals actually existed before conventional western veterinary medicine even existed. So we really have a lot to learn from them, actually. So I think really recognizing what you want to get out of your program, if you really want more of that western perspective, go to CSU. If you want very, very eastern, go to Chi. If you want somewhere in between, then probably IVAS is good for you. But also think about where you’re going. I wanted to go to San Diego. I was living in Seattle. I wanted to escape the Seattle gloom in the wintertime and get down to some sun, so that just worked out well for me.
DESTEFANO: Do you ever encounter stigma for pursuing this field?
MAHANEY: In pursuing veterinary medicine or pursuing a complementary type practice? I say very, very infrequently. I think the time it tends to come, the places it tends to come from are people who are very old-school, older veterinarians who just aren’t really as aware of this kind of evolution of this practice style. Or people who are very, very western in in terms of being internal medicine specialists. It’s amazing when you try to talk to certain internal medicine specialists about foods and how food energy affects pets and the quality of the ingredients that goes into food. A lot of times they won’t even want to listen. They just want to know what food will treat what particular illness that they’re managing with, like a kidney diet for kidney failure, a liver diet for liver failure. They don’t stop to think what actually is going into the food. Is it a pet-grade ingredient or human-grade ingredient? Is it a real muscle meat, or is it a protein source that’s based in grain? And so that’s where I think the ball is being dropped right now, but hopefully I can be part of the process of educating people like that about the value of holistic veterinary practice and whole food nutrition in the future.
DESTEFANO: Awesome. And so, what advice do you have for students that might be interested in the holistic field?
MAHANEY: Well, that’s a very open question. I think if you do have that interest and certainly starting to familiarize with different options. Anybody could really be a holistic practitioner and certainly getting some kind of education along the lines of holistic practice is good. Like, most acupuncture training programs really focus on looking in disease in a different way, and that kind of blends with holism. And then there are even very specific teachings you can go to, like Chinese medicine food energy, Tui na. All sorts of different and kind of more unusual practices. But as a student, maybe joining a club if there’s a Holistic Veterinary Medical Association club, being a student member of the AHVMA is an option as well. So kind of aligning yourself with those principles and introducing yourself to people who practice that style so you can see how it works actually on a clinical basis, ’cause you can like the idea, you can think it’s interesting. But until you actually submerse yourself in it, you might not realize fully what you’re getting into. ’Cause it is different, and every day is a learning process doing it. And there’s a lot of unknowns. Like if I have a question about—I work with so many cancer patients, and these people come into me with bags of supplements that the animals are getting. And they read on the internet that: “Oh I need to give this, I need to give that, I need to make this special cocktail.” There’s a lot of: I don’t know if that’s going to help, I just hope that doesn’t hurt. So I try to educate my clients on not having multiple combination of the same things going into pets. Looking at ingredients, and things like that. So there’s a lot of unknowns out there that you might not be able to answer and you have to be comfortable with the fact that you may not know the answer and then figure out how to appropriately guide the client on it.
|Cardiff, ever the mascot|
Photo: S. Fang
FANG: Ok. Thank you. So now we’re going to move on to some questions more pertaining to the LGBT community. So we wanted to know how do you identify in terms of the community, and do you feel like your identification has at all affected your school, your job, and your living location choices?
MAHANEY: Certainly I identify with the LGBT community as a gay member. I’ve always, since I’ve come out, been involved with the LGBT community in school, been a member of the LGVMA, the Lesbian Gay Veterinary Medical Association. I contribute every quarter to their newsletter as well, which has been great. And then they’re helping me to facilitate –they facilitated me coming here today, so that’s been great as well. And so in school, it really wasn’t an issue. Once I felt comfortable with myself in coming out, everything was fine, and I was equally accepted by my peers. I just don’t want people to say to kind of interact with me and think the first thing: “Oh he’s gay.” I don’t think that’s the most important thing: I’m a person; I’m a professional; I’m a partner; I’m an athlete—I have a lot of things that I do. And so just being gay is not the only thing. So I want to respect other people’s comfort level with it as well. I’m not going to force them; I’m not going to lecture them on gay marriage if they are absolutely 100% vehemently opposed to it. But I will bring up the idea about it. And how it pertains to professionalism too. With my clients, if they want to know about my personal life, and I get to know them, I will talk to them about that. Being in West Hollywood, there’s a high likelihood that if I don’t have a wedding ring on, and I’m a thirty-something year old male, that I’m probably gay. It’s just kind of like the default thing. And working at the first veterinary practice that I did in West Hollywood, there was one other gay vet, and everybody was very comfortable and open about it. There was never any hiding. It was embraced; it was welcome. And working with so many LGBT community members, they, I think, feel comfortable coming to somebody that understands their situation. And when I’ve actually spoken before in writing about why I feel that’s one of the reasons people come to me, I’ve been criticized for that. I’ve had people make comments on articles that I’ve written that, “I don’t want to go to a vet just cause they’re gay, I want to go just cause they’re a good vet.” But in West Hollywood I get people coming to me because I understand that: I understand their home situation and their relationships, and the complicated dynamics that can go into it, and the trends and patterns that seems to happen in the veterinary community, as well and how that affects pet health. So it’s been very good being an out gay member of the LGBT community for personal reasons and for business reasons as well.
FANG: Right. That’s interesting about the intersection of this LGBTQ identity and your professional life. I was interested to know if you find that there is a higher acceptance rate of the LGBT population in terms of alternative medicine, or if that’s even a thing? I ask this because I feel like a lot of LGBTQ people, as people who do get persecuted in society, they might have a more open mind to things. So I was just wondering if you’d seen a trend like that, if you have more LGBT clients who are more accepting of holistic medicine.
MAHANEY: I think in having been working primarily for myself for three years through my own business now, I would have to say probably about close to 50% of my clients are LGBT community members. And I think that being in California and being in West Hollywood and working with people that are in the media business, there is more of an acceptance of being an LGBT member in the first place. And then also, they are often more accepting of different practice styles besides just conventional practice. And certainly, I think, one thing with LGBT pet owners: very often their pets are their children or equivalent of it, so they’re looking to do whatever they can to try to make them as healthy as possible. That sometime means exploring more alternative types of treatments: they’re more willing to do so.
FANG: Right. I know we hit on this earlier in terms of mentors. You’d mentioned a particular advisor you had at Penn that really helped you. I wanted to know if you wanted to talk about your memorable LGBTQ mentors.
MAHANEY: Absolutely. I actually had a really great mentor. His name is Colin Johnstone. He’s a retired clinical practitioner and veterinary parasitologist. He was my parasitology professor in school. And I remember first seeing him, and I didn’t know he was gay. He was just a nice older guy, and we actually connected because when Clinton was running for his second term, I facilitated a student voting process for if you were an out of state student, you would be able to vote and still have your vote have impact. And so that kind of caused him to reach out to me, and that was just during the process of my coming out. So when I did come out, he was very welcoming and [welcoming] to the student LGBT community. He and his partner would hold gatherings for veterinary students where we would go to their house and have dinners, and parties, and things like that. And actually University of Pennsylvania, the small animal facility, is in downtown Philadelphia, but the large animal facility is in New Bolton. Sorry it’s called New Bolton Center—it’s in Kennett Square, 45 miles away. So when I was doing my rotations out there during 3rd and 4th year, they invited me to stay in their guest house. So he really made my life a lot easier because a lot of other people had to rent houses or drive everyday to and from Philadelphia to New Bolton Center. The student dorms were being renovated so they had trailers. Like “I don’t want to stay in a trailer!”
I would stay in a trailer if I had to. But Dr Johnstone really facilitated my ease of trying to be more dedicated to my personal beliefs and to my schoolwork as well. And even now, he’s retired from Penn, but he lives in Boston in Brookline, and so when I go to see my family in the summertime, I always make time to spend time with Dr. Johnstone and his partner. So it’s been a nice on-going relationship.
FANG: Well that’s wonderful. And clearly as students, we’re heavily involved in issues on LGBTQ causes. And so, we’re just wondering if you have any words of advice to students such as ourselves, especially in terms of involvement in extracurricular activities, in being out in certain application processes? For example, for vet school itself for the pre-veterinary students out there, or for externships and jobs for current students, if you have any advice?
MAHANEY: My main advice to vet students is to stay true to who you are, especially, like, this day and age, things have changed. People are much more accepting of the LGBT lifestyle, and so having that be who you are and having that be obvious, and being willing to talk about it with people, and to show that you’re just a person like they are. You are different, but it doesn’t make you that different really. You still want the same things that most people want in terms of achieving success, personally and professionally, having a family, having a life. There’s a lot of commonality there. So when it comes to being part of a student group, I think that’s great. Really kind of being a role model within your industry as well, where you can help other people through your experience. When it comes to looking for jobs and things like that, if you’re asked about it, don’t lie about it. You might be more comfortable focusing on places where that kind of lifestyle might be a little more accepted, which tends to be more towards metropolitan areas. Yes, it is kind of growing out of the suburbs too, but I just feel as though, focusing more on where you’re accepted is an important thing to do instead of always putting yourself up against adversity, especially when you’re first starting to work, you’re just learning the ropes, and you don’t want to be fighting a battle just because of your sexual orientation where you’re really needing to focus on gaining clinical experience, so working at a practice that is in a metropolitan area or adjacent that maybe even has an LGBT member, and relying on resources in the professional community, like working with the LGVMA so they can potentially help you to get connected with role models in the industry.
FANG: And along those lines, we’re seeing a lot of social change in terms of acceptance. In terms of the veterinary field in particular, have you ever had any positive or negative experiences as an out male veterinarian?
MAHANEY: [Laughs] Interesting question. I think in moving to West Hollywood, certainly I was embraced by the veterinary community, by the pet-loving and owning community there. And at the veterinary practice I worked at, there was another gay male vet who is a little bit older than I was and people would confuse us because we look similar and have blond hair and things like that. And so I was like the “other” gay vet.
Or people would write comments on sites and I was the “hot” vet that saw them—
—and that’s been said about—and I don’t look at myself that way. And that’s been said about on Teddy Hilton-- I’ve had people write comments about that too. So it’s always kind of funny to read those things. I haven’t necessarily had any negative experiences except for when I wrote about how I represent myself in the veterinary community as an LGBT veterinarian, and I said that people, I feel, in the West Hollywood community, they come to me in part because I’m gay, and people criticized me for that. But I’m not making this up. I’m just pointing out that this is an observation that I see where because I understand what it’s like to be a LGBT member and pet-owner, I can help them to help to manage their pet’s illnesses.
FANG: Right. I think there’s been a lot of dialogue recently at the level of the AVMA and all these symposiums about trying to be more inclusive and how that is actually beneficial to a practice, so it’s good to see that these things are happening.
|Dr. Mahaney and his partner Phil|
Photo: S. Fang
DESTEFANO: So. We know you’re very active and very savvy in the use of multi-media, especially more recently, and seemingly at increasing amplitude. As you’ve said, you have your website, your professional blog, you have Cardiff’s blog, and you’ve been active on YouTube. You’ve been on MSNBC and Animal Planet. Can you describe this process and how you got involved?
MAHANEY: It has been a long three and a half years since I started doing this. I always wanted to have some kind of role in the media as a veterinarian. Not being an actor, not really having an interest in being a celebrity, necessarily. I’ve wanted to have a platform on which I can speak where I am an expert through my education and my experience. And that’s where establishing myself as a media veterinarian has kind of come into play. So it all began about three and a half years ago when my former neighbor who was a PR guy and a book publisher suggested I do some media work. And I didn’t really know what to do or how. And being in LA and having all what happened around me, I figured there has to be some way I can kind of get my message out there, even just about basic pet care. Even just starting off with that, and then once I had a following, start talking about more holistic-type pet care. And so he created a couple projects for me to do. I paid him; I contracted with him to do that. He got me some projects. I like doing it; I love to write and so just kept on working and working and working and really trying to write about my experiences and the things I think are relevant for pet owners, lots of take away messages, and it’s just kept building and building. And I network everywhere I go. I try to—if there’s somebody that I like the work that they’re doing, I will make a connection to them: I’ll comment on their article or get an introduction to them through Linked In or something like that. So really just being willing to take the time to try to establish relationships and keep building relationships and seeing where they go in different directions as been great. It really has led from one thing to another. And I recognize that working in the media is something that I really see as a larger portion of my career in the future, and I’ve [been] tailoring down my practice where I’m still working with clients in their homes and at the Veterinary Cancer Group, providing a high level of care and customer service, but then also developing this other type of aspect of my career, which I kind of look at as my retirement career because it’s something that I love to do that I do all the time, wherever I go. And I just have to figure out ways to try to make it a little bit more of a means of financially supporting myself. It’s a lot of trial and error, and it’s a lot of work, but if you really want to do it, and you stick with it, like with anything, you can make it successful.
DESTEFANO: Awesome. And you know, it’s funny. I just was writing a paper as a final assignment for a class that we have here at WesternU--it’s called Vet issues. It kind of focuses on the non-medical aspects of the veterinary field. The assignment was looking—was projecting yourself into the future, what kind of area do you want to live in, what kind of practice do you want to do. What things you can do as, not only a medical professional, but just as a citizen to increase awareness about animal welfare issues, or whatever you find passionate. And there was a lot of talk about the multi-media type of path to go down. So along those lines, what would you suggest, as a starting point for students like myself, or Sonia, and lots of others out there, as well, to really get involved?
MAHANEY: I think that’s a really good question because it all is kind of founded on education, where you want to try to help other people through what you’ve learned and what you’ve experienced. So I think getting—instead of just thinking and wanting, actually do it. To get your start writing things down, keep an on-going file of different topics that you’d like to maybe pitch to established media organizations. I think creating a website is not that challenging to do. There’s a lot of technical aspects of the two that can be beyond what you may know how to do and what you can best do yourself, so hiring somebody to create a website that can feature your writing, that also will be like a business card for you as well. And also using your experience through social media as well: so there’s something that affects you as a veterinary student? You put it on your Facebook site. There are people that you know through your school or personally will comment on it or share it with who they know. Putting things on twitter. If you want to make a pet health video or something like that, putting that on YouTube. There’s so many different ways you can use what’s free and already available. It’s just a matter of actually doing it. So I think the first thing I would suggest would be writing something down. Creating an outline. If you don’t want to write it handwritten, type it. If you don’t want to type it, speak it, and have it become dictation. Just get it from a thought into an actual process, and then keep dedicating time to doing it.
DESTEFANO: That’s awesome advice. Now we have a few of the “fun” questions.
DESTEFANO: The miscellaneous ones. So it’s clear that where you practice and your client base and through all of your practice in multi-media, you have lots of connections and lots of, you know, the Hollywood circles. I was wondering if you could tell us some of your exciting stories or interactions as a veterinarian with maybe some famous clients?
MAHANEY: Well working at an emergency hospital in West Hollywood has led to direct interactions with lots of very prominent people in the media, of which I can’t directly speak about in this capacity—
—but I’ve been in some very unusual circumstances with some very prominent celebrities very late at night and early in the morning, sometimes involving less than savory things. Being in West Hollywood there are a lot of marijuana dispensaries, so I’ve had to treat lots of celebrity dogs for having consumed marijuana baked goods. Other types of recreational drugs, prescription drugs as well which maybe slightly being abused by them? It’s been interesting from that perspective. But then I’ve also developed some great relationships with clients that I go to their homes that have given me their consent to speak about, like Alicia Silverstone, or Bryce Dallas Howard, or Jane Lynch. So those are great people that I enjoy working with and also are very open-minded people who are heavily involved in media. So I like working with celebrities. I find it fascinating that here I am, this person who grew up where I did and just moved to the West Coast, and there I am face to face, across the counter, sitting next to this person that is super-well known in the media for whatever reason, hopefully good reasons. So it’s just fascinating, here I am sitting there, working with them. And it’s even better when you can really establish a trusting relationship with them where they want you to help them, and they might have you come to their home, and you become more involved in their lives. And that just kind of takes on a whole different level. I don’t talk about that aspect of my work because that’s really very private with my particular clients, but it’s an interesting thing in that I kind of have a little bit of a memoir that I would love to change names—
–and publish at some point as to all the crazy stuff that I’ve seen and done doing veterinary practice, working in this realm. But being in LA has been great for that, and it’s something I would never give up.
DESTEFANO: Awesome. It was interesting to hear, I think.
DESTEFANO: So now we have another interesting question: What is your least favorite gay stereotype?
MAHANEY: I think my least favorite gay stereotype would probably be the typical assistant that you see to some famous woman who has a reality show. There’s always like the hair stylist, PR person, make-up artist. And not that there’s anything wrong at all, because those people have a hard job and they do a great job at it, but I think the condescending nature to which they take—they approach their day-to-day lives, the sense of an overt sense of elitism, where maybe they think they’re more than who they really are. Or the need to create drama where maybe there really doesn’t need to be drama in the first place. Those things I think are just a little bit of waste of time for a viewer, but then again if you’re watching a reality TV show, you’re probably going to be exposed to some of that stuff in the first place. I think it kind of maybe trying to take excessive advantage of a stereotype just so that you might become popular in the media or something like that.
DESTEFANO: Alright. And you know it’s very clear that you’re very active, love to go to the beach with Cardiff and all of that. We were just wondering what your favorite non-veterinary pastime is?
MAHANEY: But I’m always working—
—it never ever stops. No I think that having a healthy lifestyle is really important to me. Not just to be a healthy middle-age person at this point, but in order to be able to continue to function to the capacity that I do professionally. I think too many people put their health and their own physical health aside from a fitness perspective, just to focus on work. And then they end up becoming—they gain weight, they don’t look as good, their self confidence goes down. That all plays into how you carry yourself in a professional realm. If you take care of yourself, if you eat well, if you exercise, if you take time to be away from work as well, then you’re gonna be able to serve your clients better and be a better veterinarian. So finding that balance, always making sure you’re taking time to take care of yourself and eating well. Cause that’s gonna show in how you carry yourself in a day-to-day basis in society and also in practice.
FANG: Well, thank you so much for coming and speaking to us about your experiences, and we really appreciate it.
DESTEFANO: Yeah, I think it was just excellent insight for, not only us as students, but anyone else who is out there that kind of keys into this interview, whether you’re interested in holistic medicine, whether you’re interested in the LGBT community and how that’s involved in veterinary medicine. It was really awesome to have you.
FANG: So this concludes our second interview in a hopefully on-going series. Speaking of social media, Broad Spectrum can be found on facebook at BroadSpectrumVSA, as well as twitter [@]BroadSpectrumVS, as well as our website broadspectrumvsa.org, and our blog broadspectrumvsa.blogspot.com. Thank you so much.
MAHANEY: Thank you very much for having me, and I look forward to coming back again.
|Left to Right: Sonia Fang, Cardiff, Dr. Mahaney, Ian DeStefano|
This interview was conducted by Sonia Fang (WUHS-CVM 2013) and Ian DeStefano (WUHS-CVM 2014), and it was transcribed by Sonia Fang. The video was provided courtesy of Dr. Mahaney and edited by Sonia Fang.
Would you like to participate in our on-going interview series?
We are looking for veterinarians who are interested in being interviewed. The interview would be conducted via email, phone, or in person, whichever is more convenient. We believe this project is important, not only as a resource to students, but as a means to strengthen a sense of visibility and community within the veterinary field. If you are interested in participating or if you have questions you’d like to see answered, please email us at broadspectrumoutreach [at] gmail [dot] com.
Broad Spectrum Veterinary Student Association, founded in 2011, provides support and community to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, questioning, and allied pre-veterinary and veterinary students across North America.